Emirates Team New Zealand won its match over Team Alinghi at the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act yesterday, gaining a small measure of revenge for their 31st America's Cup defeat.
In March, 2003, Alinghi won its fifth consecutive race to sweep the America's Cup from New Zealand, and bring the Auld Mug to Europe. The loss to Emirates Team New Zealand could hurt Team Alinghi on the final standings here, as the Kiwis closed to within four points of the Swiss team.
At the top of the points table, the two wins for the BMW ORACLE Racing team assured it of winning the opening Act of the 32nd America's Cup. Larry Ellison's team is clearly on a roll, winning two exhibition events in the United States, and now the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act, since bowing out to Alinghi in the 2003 Louis Vuitton Cup Final.
Conditions were lighter on the Rade Sud for the first flight on Friday, with racing starting in an 8 to 10 knot Southeasterly breeze. During the first matches, the wind eased further, and patches of pressure streaked across the race course, making for a tricky day for the tacticians. The Race Committee again scheduled a two lap course, with two mile legs, keeping the races short and the boats close. For the second flight, the wind was up to 12 to 14 knots.
There were two interesting matches on offer in the the first Flight on Friday, including the match of the day between Team Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand. The second pair to start in Flight One included the two French teams, K-Challenge and LE DEFI. Skipper Philippe Presti, on LE DEFI sailed a strong pre-start, and led Thierry Peponnet, steering K-Challenge, across the start line by five seconds. Presti converted this early advantage into a lead at the top mark, and LE DEFI was only threatened badly on the final run to the finish when its spinnaker exploded again. But a replacement was quickly hoisted, and LE DEFI earned an important victory in the battle of the French teams.
In the third match of the first Flight, Team Shosholoza led the BMW ORACLE team across the start line by five-seconds, but was no match for the experienced American team, trailing at every mark, and finishing 4:05 in arrears.
Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 - Match Race of the Day
Emirates Team New Zealand beat Team Alinghi, Delta - 0:13
In the 2003 America's Cup, equipment problems meant Team New Zealand didn't finish two of the five matches against Alinghi. But on Friday, on the Rade Sud, the tables were turned, and the Kiwis took advantage of a genoa problem on the Swiss boat to make a pass, and held on to the lead for the win. The race started with an impressive dial-up, both boats held head to wind for nearly four minutes, with Dean Barker on Emirates Team New Zealand fighting to hold position on the left hand side of the start line. Eventually, Peter HOLMBERG, steering Alinghi, broke off towards the Committee Boat, chased by Barker. After one quick circle the boats sped for the line, with Alinghi timing the gun to perfection and leading NZL-82 across the line by four seconds.
The Swiss team protected the right hand side of the race course and were slowly but surely eking ahead each time the boats converged and split away. But two-thirds of the way up the beat, there was a problem with the genoa on SUI-64, and although the Swiss crew hoisted a replacement very quickly, it was enough to allow Emirates Team New Zealand into the lead. On the first run, Alinghi nearly passed the Kiwis, but the final gybe for the mark set up NZL-82 in a position where they could lead into the gate. Both teams chose the mark on the port side of the course, and Barker was able to stay on the left, reaching the puffs first, and extending on the top part of the beat. On the final run to the finish Alinghi couldn't make any progress, and Emirates Team New Zealand won a match against the Swiss team for the first time.
For the second Flight, the bottom teams on the points table were matched against the top teams, and the races were fairly one-sided. The stronger teams all earned victories, establishing the battleground for the fifth and final flight of races on Saturday morning.
Racing concludes in the Marseille Louis Vuitton Act on Saturday, with the final flight of Match Races wrapping up the schedule. The finishing position for every team but series winner, BMW ORACLE Racing will be affected by the results of Saturday's matches. Following the final race, a public prize giving ceremony will take place in the AC Park on the J-4 pier in Marseille, beginning at 16:45.
Provisional Results and Standings
NZL-82 beat SUI-64, delta 0:13
FRA-69 beat FRA-57, delta 0:30
USA-76 beat RSA-48, delta 4:05
NZL-82 beat FRA-69, delta 2:30
SUI-64 beat RSA-48, delta 3:33
USA-76 beat FRA-57, delta 1:32